Syde CIO Robert Windisch

Robert's straw hat in the grass
For me, Syde means community and the opportunity to make the world a little better.

In this article, we introduce Robert Windisch, co-founder and CIO of Syde GmbH. Many already know him as a very active member of the WordPress community, easily recognizable at events by his trademark: the straw hat. In this interview, he tells what is important to him and what WordPress and Syde mean to him. 

This is Robert Windisch

Robert is 40 years old and lives in Leipzig, Germany, Europe. 

Robert in two photos: at a table at a WordCamp sorting stickers as presents and in a lively conversation with another man. On both photos, he wears his trademark, the straw hat with many patches.
Robert in the WordPress Community

How can you be described? 

I want to improve things and I want to do so whenever I can. That’s kind of the purpose of my life. I have always pursued this goal and I am very motivated. When people ask me why I do this, I can only answer: Well, to make things better! If you really think altruistically, then you don’t care if people see what you’re doing. My motivation is to make things better by what I do. It’s simple like that.  

It is important to me to understand contexts and to question things, no matter in which field. Whether it’s politics, technology or culture, it’s all connected anyway. After all, we all live on the same planet. Ultimately, decisions made somewhere can always have an impact on all of us. And I try to reach the bubble of people I can reach with my thoughts and, at best, help them to help themselves. 

How do you spend your free time?

Mostly in the WordPress community. The mission behind WordPress to democratize publishing may sound a bit esoteric at first. But the idea behind it is to really make it possible for everyone to have access to the software and express themselves. This mission appeals to me very much. That’s why I want to help to realize these ideas. I am at many Meetups, WordCamps and other events around WordPress and beyond and try to take part and help where I can. I’m interested in involving people and helping them realize their ideas to make things better. 

I also listen to many podcasts. Mostly at triple speed so I can gather more information. And I like to read or listen to non-fiction books or their summaries. My goal is to collect as many new ideas, thoughts and opinions as possible. That way you get a good overview and understand how everything is related.  

Robert’s way to Syde

My way to Syde started in the WordPress community. And I came to the WordPress community in 2005 when searching for a good system for my first blog. At that time I was a TYPO3 developer. But for my blog, I wanted an easier solution. So I came across WordPress. I downloaded it, installed it, and asked two relatively stupid and already often answered questions in the German WordPress forum. But the community answered me very politely and I thought: nice community, maybe I can help others here with my knowledge. 

I started to answer the questions in the forum which no one had answered yet. The headscratchers so to speak. My advantage was that I had already 5 years of experience with PHP then. So I tried to get involved. Because of my technical background and the fact that I often contacted Olaf Schmitz (the founder of WPDE) with new ideas for improvement, I eventually became the technical admin of the platform. 

I remember this time well. It was sometimes a lot of work and a lot of pressure. For example, when there was a new WordPress release, we offered a handwritten German translation for everything (today everything runs much more automated). This meant that we often had to translate at short notice and late in the evening (because of the time difference to America) and knew that if we made mistakes, maybe hundreds of people could not use their WordPress the next day. But it was also a lot of fun because of the great community and we helped each other a lot. 

Some members of the WPDE teams, including Heinz Rohé (now CFO at Syde) and Frank Bültge (now CTO) and me, founded the WordPress agency Syde GmbH in 2009. 

What does Syde mean to you?

I like working at Syde very much because here I can follow my favorite pastime and improve something and thus make others’ work easier. It is important to me to question things and understand relations. When you understand why something is like it is, you know where you can start to optimize it together. 

And Syde opens new horizons for me. Because of the many cultural influences brought in by the different people here, I can see things from different angles. For me,Syde means community and the opportunity to make the world a little better. 

Questions to Syder Robert

We asked Robert some personal questions to get to know him better:

What is the TV show you never miss?

Rick and Morty.

Who is your favorite cartoon character?

Deadpool and Saitama. Both show the rules of their world and can change them consciously or unconsciously. It’s a beautiful application of out-of-the-box thinking. And you can improve things if you understand how the rules work.

What is your midnight snack?

Depends if there’s a burger fast-food chain near a WordCamp. 🙂

What was the last book you read?

Daniel Suarez – Freedom™.

What is the best present you ever got?

A CD of A State of Trance by Armin van Buuren as a prize in a raffle, which was in my mailbox on my birthday. Since then I don’t take part in raffles anymore, to give others a chance for joy.

If you had a superpower, what would that be?

Understanding more connections and motivations.

What is your favorite movie?

Movies are too compressed to achieve long-term relationships with the characters. Series are the new movies. Actually, I would say The Good Place.

Describe your ideal weekend.

A mix of family, improving things and the WordPress community.

What was your first reaction when you were given a firm offer by Syde?

Relieved and concerned about whether the experiment with the first permanent employee at Syde would work. That was in 2009, now we have about 50 permanent employees.

What is on your bucket list?

A few events and artists I still want to see. Like Eminem, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Stephen Colbert …

What did you want to be when you were a child?

Something with computers … The result: Something with people while using computers.

You get stuck in the elevator for many hours and there’s a song playing in a continuous loop, what song would that be?

Laid Back – Baker Man (the song has already run for over an hour in a loop at my place … until my family started complaining).

What was the best advice you ever got?

Make sure others see that a position is unfilled. They gonna want to stand up and fill that position ‒ Andrea Middleton.

What are you really good at?

Understanding context.

About what would your friends say “that’s typical you”?

Wanting to make things better.

What would be the slogan of your life?

There has to be a better way.

Superman, Batman, or Spider-Man?

If only one person from the Marvel universe is available: Spiderman. A friend of Deadpool! 🙂

By the way: The Syde Team is 100% remote

This enables us to bring together the best minds in the world in one team. You want to learn more about our way of working and the Syders? Take a look inside Syde!